How I Spent my 2022 (Part 1)

Now that 2022 is gone, I’m certainly not sorry to see it in my rear view mirror.

When we moved to the country several years ago, we anticipated living life a little more isolated than we had previously. Being 10 miles outside of the nearest town tends to do that. While it’s not on the edge of nowhere, it’s certainly not like living in an urban environment or even a suburban neighborhood. Even at our previous home in Florida, we were “in the country” but we had a Publix supermarket within 2 miles of our house and before we left, one opened even closer. I even went by a Costco on my homeward commute, so stopping to pick up a pizza or a chicken was a daily option.

Here in North Carolina, the closest store is a little over 2 miles away. it’s great if you want to buy gas, beer, soda, ice or lottery tickets, but doing the weekly grocery shopping comes up a little sparse. Unless your diet consists almost entirely of candy and chips, you’re out of luck.

So, 2022 was a bit of a mental tumult for me. In October of 2021, a routine colonoscopy started my first real serious relationships with doctors. I’m one of those guys who is rarely sick, probably missing less than a couple weeks of work in over 25 years at my previous job. There was about a three day layoff in 2000 when I had to have a hernia repaired, but other than that, never more than a minor cold or sore throat. Hell, the worst thing I ever had in that time was a hangover!

But I digress. The colonoscopy discovered about a 4 centimeter tumor in the very bottom of my colon. Imagine, my first real exposure to the metric system was to figure out how big 4 centimeters might be! Of course it was cancerous. Imagine going from getting a physical about once every 10 years to having a reserved parking spot at the local hospital’s cancer treatment center. Hell, I didn’t even have a primary care physician. I had been getting along just fine for 68 years! This cancer thing didn’t sound like a whole lot of fun… and I was right. It wasn’t.

Considering the somewhat glacial pace that modern medicine seems to move, I was rapidly whisked through a series of blood tests, a CT scan and an MRI in about a week’s time. I got calls from a Medical Oncologist’s office, a Radiation Oncologist’s office and an colo-rectal oncology Surgeon’s office.

I first met with the surgeon. That was pretty grim. He was young, by my standards. I figured he was probably early 40’s, very professional and very matter of fact. Matter of fact, he scared me half to death. Things didn’t look good and he explained what he and the other two docs had planned for me. First was radiation, then chemo, then surgery. Then what? That’s where it got really grim. He basically said I would probably end up with a colostomy for the rest of my life and he really didn’t know how long the rest of my life would be. Reassuring, not!

He also informed me I had multiple lymph nodes that showed signs of cancer. They would have to come out as well. According to him, I was a solid Stage 3. Now, believe it or not, I never looked up what Stage 3 meant, but I knew what Stage 4 was so I took some solace in that.

A few days later, I met with the radiation doc. Great guy, also very matter of fact and he was just a couple months from retiring. I would be among his last patients. I got the tour of the radiation facility and was told I should get used to it because I would be visiting it every weekday for about a month and a half.

Another couple days and I met the medical oncologist. This guy struck a nerve with me. He seemed to be much more interested in me than just as someone in treatment. Super personality, no bullshit kind of guy. After he interviewed me, I interviewed him. He had obviously been through this scenario hundreds, if not thousands of times with other patients, yet he treated me like I was his only patient. Kind of guy I am, I started asking him about his hobbies, what he did to unwind, what kind of music he liked. Had he ever played an instrument. Great conversation and I was really comfortable with him, much more so than the surgeon or the radiation doc.

Well, the introduction was over and he got down to business. Basically, according to the tests and the observations the three docs had made, I was incurable. So he outlined the path of treatment, which was going to be radiation to try and shrink the tumor and in the process possibly destroy some of the cancer in the lymph nodes. That would be about a month and a half of daily treatments, followed by 16 weeks of chemotherapy, with an infusion treatment done every other week and the time in between for me to recover. At the end of those they would re-evaluate my condition and decide whether surgery would be beneficial.

He was adamant that if I wasn’t going to be able to be cured and long-term survival was doubtful, they didn’t want to make my life too miserable with what time I had left. Then, at the end of the appointment he suggested that he would like to put me through one more test, a PET Scan to get an even better idea of where and how far along the cancer was.

So, I went home and inventoried my guitars, so after I croaked, my family would have some idea of what my collection was worth when it came time to sell it.

(To be continued)

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